Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bleakboy and Hunter stand out in the rain by Steven Herrick

There are two main characters in Bleakboy and Hunter out in the rain.  One is Hunter.  Here is a little extract that might help you understand his emotional turmoil.

"Hunter remembers when he was five years old, being caught in a thunderstorm with his dad.  How his dad lifted a newspaper above their heads as they scurried for cover.  They were soaked before reaching the safety of a bus shelter. While he watched the rain gush down the gutters and turn potholes into puddles, his father read the wet newspaper, peeling each page away from the other.  Hunter marvelled at the sky, amazed that clouds could hold that much water.  With one of his father's discarded sheets of newspaper, Hunter fashioned a boat; a newsprint canoe.  He stepped from the shelter and launched it in the gutter.  It swept away, riding the stormwater waves.  Hunter knelt on the footpath and laughed.  His father told him to come out of the rain."

Some things to notice here.  Hunter is only five.  There is little or no interaction between father and son. Hunter is obviously highly intelligent.  He thinks about the sky and the rain and the clouds and he is able to make a newspaper canoe.  None of these things rate praise or even a comment from his father.

By age eleven and in Year 6 Hunter is still highly intelligent but his intelligence is now used for less than desirable behaviours. He has become the class 'smart alec'.  "Hunter is the class anarchist, lawbreaker and boy most likely to set the record for continuous lunchtime detentions." He loves to bait the teacher and taunt his school mates one of whom is a boy named Jesse James Jones.  "Don't call me triple j. I'm not a radio station, I'm an eleven-year-old boy."  Hunter names Jesse Badboy, Emo the Emu, Rainman, and Bleakboy - hence the title.

I do love Steven Herrick books and so I was really looking forward to Bleakboy and Hunter stand out in the rain.  Herrick is a master of the tantalizing title - isn't he.  Remember Pookie Aleera is not my boyfriend.and Tom Jones saves the world.  I do love Steven Herrick but I prefer his verse novels. Bleakboy and Hunter stand out in the rain did not go deeply enough into the emotions of these characters in the same way as these previous titles.

Hunter has serous life problems - his dad has deserted the family and moved to New Zealand - I did feel sad but I wanted a closer connection.  Jesse is trying to understand his place in the world and form his own beliefs while he navigates new friendships at his new school but one character I did really like was Les.  He is an old man of eighty who becomes a very wise friend to Hunter.  The scene where Les invites Hunter to test out his mobility scooter is fabulous.  It would also be interesting to discuss some of the practices of the alternate school that Hunter, Jesse and their friends attend.

Here is a review from Reading Time.  Here is a set of teaching notes.  You might also enjoy Problem child which has similar themes.

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